Asbestos in Asphalt Exposure and Risks

Summary

Asphalt asbestos was an important component in many construction projects between the 1960s and early 1980s. It was durable, inexpensive and had many desirable qualities that made it a “miracle” solution. However, asbestos in asphalt has since proven to have deadly health consequences that continue to put Americans at risk to this day.

Asbestos in Asphalt Explained

Asphalt is a petroleum-based substance that is commonly used in asphalt concrete and asphalt roofing shingles. Until the 1980s, asbestos was frequently used in asphalt because it was fireproof, water resistant, easy to work with and inexpensive. At the time, it was the perfect solution for many of the challenges inherent to construction projects, and it was used in abundance.

Some projects or materials that commonly contained asbestos asphalt include:

  • Roads
  • Bridges
  • Curbs
  • Driveways
  • Parking lots
  • Roofs
  • Tiles
  • Paint

These asbestos-containing materials were built to last, and many of them are still in use today. It’s quite likely that workers who encounter asphalt in their day-to-day work will have to work with asbestos asphalt at some point or another.

Following the safety protocols will help keep workers safe when encountering asbestos today. Unfortunately, the dangers of asbestos in asphalt weren’t always known and life-changing damage has already been done to many hard-working Americans.

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Who Was Exposed to Asbestos in Asphalt?

Asbestos asphalt put workers at risk of exposure to asbestos fibers, which can cause deadly medical conditions like asbestosis and mesothelioma. Any occupation that worked directly with asphalt before the 1980s likely exposed people to asbestos. Dry asphalt was of greater risk than wet asphalt, but either could endanger workers.

A few of the occupations that commonly worked with asbestos asphalt were:

  • Asphalt plant workers
  • Construction workers
  • Road workers
  • Paving crews
  • Asphalt rakers
  • General laborers
  • Supervisors
  • Roofers
  • Construction manufacturers and distributors

Today, workers can be exposed to asbestos asphalt when deconstructing or repairing old projects that used the material. Workers encountering asphalt asbestos during repair and maintenance projects should take safety precautions to protect against accidentally inhaling fibers.

Asbestos asphalt cannot be reused and must be disposed of in accordance with state and federal laws.

MJN Brief

Roads built in the 1960s often contained asbestos asphalt and, partially due to asbestos’ durability, are sometimes still in use to this day. Repair and maintenance are typically more cost-effective than new construction within the asphalt industry. Likewise, some roofs containing asphalt asbestos can last upwards of 50 years and will now need repair or replacement.

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Compensation for treatment, loss of income and other damages is available through Asbestos Trust Funds. Mesothelioma patients exposed to workplace asbestos may qualify.

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Health Risks of Asbestos in Asphalt

Asbestos asphalt was (and continues to be) a health risk because it contains asbestos as a primary ingredient. Undisturbed asbestos doesn’t pose a risk to people. But when asbestos is disturbed, microscopic fibers become airborne, posing a significant health risk to those around.

Dry asphalt is most likely to become airborne when being poured or mixed. Wet and previously worked asphalt can also result in airborne fibers when it’s worked with or otherwise disturbed.

People working with asbestos can unknowingly inhale microscopic asbestos fibers. Working themselves into the body, asbestos fibers can lodge into the soft lining of the abdomen, lungs and heart. Once trapped, the body cannot expel or break down the fibers and they remain stuck indefinitely.

MJN Brief

Over time, the lodged mesothelioma fibers interact with the surrounding cells, triggering a mutation. The process can take decades, but eventually, mutated cells become mesothelioma—a deadly cancer that then spreads to other parts of the body, infecting healthy cells and organs.

Mesothelioma has a high mortality rate and is one of the hardest forms of cancer to beat because of its ability to remain undetected until the late stages of the disease. Many asphalt workers are diagnosed with mesothelioma far too late.

Seeking Justice for Asbestos Exposure

Asphalt workers exposed to asbestos throughout their work may have devastating health effects. However, cancer research has made significant progress since the 1990s and legal systems have been created to help victims get justice.

If you worked with asphalt asbestos or other asbestos products and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, get in touch with our Justice Support Team. Call us at (888) 360-4215 or sign up to receive your FREE Mesothelioma Justice Guide to understand your legal rights and compensation options.

View Author and Sources
Sources
  1. ForConstructionPros.com. “Asbestos is Asphalt?” Retrieved from: https://www.forconstructionpros.com/asphalt/article/12028118/asbestos-in-asphalt-handle-with-care Accessed on May 26, 2018.
  2. Asphalt Magazine, “An Overview of Asphalt Roofing Technology.” Retrieved from: http://asphaltmagazine.com/an-overview-of-asphalt-roofing-technology/ Accessed on May 26, 2018.
  3. National Post, “City says warning over asbestos-laced asphalt an ‘abundance of caution.’” Retrieved from: http://nationalpost.com/posted-toronto/city-says-warning-over-asbestos-laced-asphalt-an-abundance-of-caution Accessed on May 26, 2018.

Last modified: June 15, 2018